Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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6/12/2008
12:30 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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How Tomorrow's CIO Can Buck The Trend Of Waning Influence

Our research reveals a conflict: huge expectations for what an IT exec should deliver, yet signs that CIO influence is slipping. Here's how to break through the fog.

Ken Lawonn stops midsentence, hesitates at a certain word, and instead takes a sip of water from the glass in front of him. Lawonn is sitting at a table in the Grand Ballroom of the Omaha Marriott, waiting to go onstage at the Nebraska IT Symposium, one of five CIOs scheduled for a panel discussion.

The word Lawonn hesitates to pronounce is "relegated"--as in "CIOs will be relegated to the role of infrastructure managers." Relegated sounds so dismissive, and managing a company's technology infrastructure isn't exactly small potatoes.

Lawonn is the CIO of Alegent Health, a nine-hospital, 9,000-employee health care system. Lawonn worries that CIOs aren't fulfilling their promise as high-level business executives. It's not his own role at Alegent he's concerned about. Along with IT, Lawonn's responsible for the hospital group's construction projects and retail business. And he's just been put in charge of its budget process. No, Lawonn's worried that the CIO position in general, after so many years of upward trajectory, is slipping. That it will be, you know, relegated to a lesser role.

InformationWeek Reports

There's a deeply rooted tension behind Lawonn's concerns, and it pops out of our research for a forthcoming InformationWeek Analytics Report on Tomorrow's CIO, which will be posted on our site in the coming weeks. There's good news for CIOs in the report. Companies want more than infrastructure management from CIOs and their IT organizations. The desired attributes cited most often are leadership, effectiveness, vision, help with optimizing business processes, and insight into new areas of growth.

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The bad news: Too many execs don't see CIOs living up to that high standard. Results of a survey of more than 700 corporate managers and CIO and VP-of-IT-level executives indicate the CIO role has taken a few steps backward in the last year in terms of influence and clout. Only 39% of managers outside IT say the influence of the CIO is increasing, down from 43% a year ago. CIOs are a little more bullish on themselves, but not much: 55% say the CIO's stature is upwardly mobile, but that's down from 66% a year ago.

Whether they know it or not--and most do--companies need an executive leader well versed in both technology and business processes. The CIO position is tailor made to take that role, but a disturbingly large group of non-IT execs don't have much faith in that happening. The question is, which CIOs will step up to it?

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